542 This is probably the right translation of
μὴ διέρχεσθαι τόπον, ἑφ’
ὃν ἂν ὄνος ὀκλάση?. The taboo is otherwise unattested and very obscure. It is likely that Josephus and his biblically literate Judean readers would hear an echo of the Balaam story (Num 22:22-35), in which the ass collapses in the presence of an angel (Josephus, in retelling this story at
Ant. 4.109, uses the same verb,
ὀκλάζω; cf. Gutschmid 559, Troiani 111). But this resonance could not have been heard, or intended, by Pythagoreans, or by Hermippus (there is no evidence that Alexandrian scholars of his day read the LXX). For the former, there is a possible but remote link to Pythagoras’ famous saying about helping a man not to take off his burden, but to shoulder it (Plutarch,
Mor. 728c), or to Pythagorean disgust for the donkey’s habit of defecating towards the east (Aelian,
Nat. an. 10.28). Labow suggests some connection to the Pythagorean doctrine of the transmigration of souls, with the donkey inhabited by the soul of a man who was wicked in his previous life (2005: 183, n.60).